Ask the Flying Monkey! (May 20, 2009)

Have a question about gay male entertainment? Ask the Monkey! (Please include your city and state and/or country.)

Q: I was always under the impression
that Dom DeLuise, like other 1970s B-level comic figures such as Paul Lynde, Rip Taylor, and Charles
Nelson Reilly
, was a not-very-closeted gay man. I was surprised, then,
that when he died last week, there was no mention of that in any article I saw.
I did read that he had a long marriage to a woman and several grown children
(certainly not proof of heterosexuality, but nonetheless). Was I just
misinformed? — Thomasina, Alabama

Dom DeLuise

A: You and the Flying Monkey both. I also always simply
assumed DeLuise was gay, so I was as surprised as you were to read last week
that he’d been married for 44 years and had three children.

That said – and I’m not necessarily saying
anything about DeLuise, because I have no idea what the truth is – gay men of
that generation, especially actors, sometimes had an extremely strange
relationship with public declarations of homosexuality.

Last year, when we referred to Rip Taylor as
“openly gay” (because IMDb and many other sources list him as such), we
received an email from him,
stating, “You don’t know me to summarize
that I am openly gay. I don’t know that you’re not an openly heroin user. You
see how that works? Think before you write.”

If that email reads like it came from an alternate reality, it did: a
distant time when an indication of gayness was enough to get a celebrity
drummed out of his chosen profession, perhaps for good.

In other words, the comedians you mention, and
others, were allowed to be “colorful” and “flamboyant” – but only as long as
they never ever actually said they were “gay” (although Paul Lynde, envelope-pusher
that he was, sometimes came very close). Gay leading men, meanwhile, were
“allowed” their private lives – but only if there was no evidence of their
gayness whatsoever, often even around their “liberal” straight Hollywood
friends. Rock Hudson
wrote in his autobiography that he actually resented out gay people, and blamed
them for anti-gay bigotry. Such is
the mind-warping power of the closet.

And sometimes, as you say, the bargain these
actors made with the mainstream meant dating or marrying women.

Still, it’s hard for me to judge the choices made
by a previous generation, who know far better than I what they had to do to
survive.

Q: I was wondering if you knew if the
singer Jon McLaughlin is a gay ally. I know he is straight and I’ve seen him
live and he is amazing! – Travys

Jon McLaughlin

A: He is indeed down with his gay fans. The handsome singer, who sang the
song “So Close” in the movie Enchanted
(and saw his career take off after he performed the nominated tune at the 2007
Academy Awards), grew up in sometimes-conservative Indiana (after which he titled his second
CD, Indiana). But Jon spent his
childhood and teen years doing musicals and plays – which, stereotypes be
damned, meant spending a lot of time around gay people.

Next page! Hey John Schneider, how’s it hanging?

Q: I recently watched the final few
episodes of Dirty Sexy Money, and to
my surprise, John Schneider played a gay senator. I know he’s a Christian, but
did I jump to conclusions to assume he leans to the right politically? (If you
have seen those Dukes of Hazards
photos of him in tight jeans, you know he leans to the right in more ways than
one!)
Bambino Italiano

A: Now hold on there, Bambino – this is my
column, and I’ll make the cheeky, funny comments, thank you very much! The
first rule of writing to the Flying Monkey is that you can’t be wittier than he
is.

As to how “right” Schneider leans, it’s true that Schneider is a born-again
Christian. But a typical right-winger? I’m not so sure. After all, he became
born again after living with Johnny and June Carter Cash, and Johnny, while a
devout Christian, was a close friend of Al Gore, a Native American rights
activist, and an opponent of the Iraq War – about as far from the typical
right-winger as you can get.

(Speaking of Cash, do yourself a favor and go listen to “The Man Comes
Around,” the title track from his 2002 CD that is even better than “Hurt,” the
break-out single. Do it now!)

Anyway, I’d like to believe that Schneider, like Cash, is one of those
Christians you don’t hear much about: the open-minded, non-sanctimonious,
deeply empathic kind. You know – the ones who actually imitate Christ?

For the record, at 49-years-old, Schneider still looks pretty fricking
amazing.

Schneider then and now. Does he still lean to the right … politically?

Q: I know you guys are tied to the
Logo network, but I would like to know what has been going on over at here! TV.
Last year they had a great podcast that they were turning into a TV show (The Ben and Dave Show), when suddenly
Ben was gone from the network. This year they had several great podcasts,
and now they’ve dropped all of them. Is this some straight-owned network
that doesn’t know what they’re doing, or just some corporation only looking at
the bottom line? Now they have even canceled their Hot Gay Comics TV show. – Scott,
Rochester Hills, MI

A: Ben Harvey left the network in April to work for the gay radio show, Radio with a Twist (currently on
hiatus).

Will he work with Dave Rubin again? “Funny you ask, because we’re reunited
and back in action with a new show,” Ben tells the Flying Monkey. “It’s called So What, Who Cares? – an SNL/Joy Behar/The View reference. It’s a podcast – for now.”

Ben Harvey and Dave Rubin

As for here!, they’ve shifted their priorities away from podcasts to network
programming – though one former podcast, Josh
and Sara
, is still being filmed for TV. Hot
Gay Comics
hasn’t been canceled and is still airing new episodes. And I
can’t speak to how “bottom-line” the network is, but I can tell you it’s owned
by two men – one straight (Stephen P. Jarchow), but also one gay (Paul
Colichman).

And for the record, while AfterElton.com is owned by Logo/MTV, we’re
editorially independent.

Q: I was watching The 2009 TV Land
Awards
(loved Neil Patrick Harris) and
I had a question about the Home Improvement cast. Jonathan
Taylor Thomas
was missing from the group. Is there bad blood between him and the Home Improvement cast and crew? Also,
what is he up to now? — Reid, Orlando, FL

A: I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already
been explored in much greater depth on E!’s True
Hollywood Story
, but yes, there was reportedly bad blood between Jonathan
and the Home Improvement cast
(especially Tim Allen) when he left mid-way through the eighth season, and
didn’t return for the finale the following year, because he had landed movie
roles (as hard as it is to imagine now, Thomas was then a Very Big Deal).

“I think he might be in New York going to school now, so maybe he didn’t
want to take a flight out to L.A.,” TV bro Zachary Ty Bryan told TV Guide, though he says the actor did
attend his wedding three years ago.

Nonetheless, Thomas’ absence got plenty of tongues
wagging. Was it lingering resentment?

Thomas wasn’t talking – nor is he interested in
telling AfterElton.com readers what he’s up to lately. He didn’t respond to a
recent interview request.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Next page! Why the Yellow Brick Road is a perfect metaphor for the gay rights struggle.

Q: I know
the struggle for GLBT rights isn’t over, but it sure seems like we’ve come a
long way. Still, it’s interesting to ask: do you think we could have gotten
where we are any sooner? – Marshall, Key West, FL

A: Alas, there is no shortcut down the Yellow Brick Road.

Think about it: for years, the only media images
of gay people were the worst imaginable –serial killers and child-molesters.

Sure, some of it was because the media were lazy,
and because the mainstream wanted us
to be represented by these images in order to do what the mainstream always
does: try to keep things exactly the way they are.

But often it was because these were the only
public GLBT images that existed. When 500 priests are accused of molesting
altar boys and all the other gay priests refuse to come out, the
child-molesting priests are going to win the news cycle any day.

Unlike most racial minorities, the real battle the
GLBT community faced wasn’t really against discrimination. After all, many –
most? – of us could avoid overt discrimination just by pretending to be
straight. But it was a Faustian bargain; hiding just made it worse for those of
us who couldn’t hide or were somehow exposed. And it made it very difficult for
all of us to love.

No, our community’s real enemy is, and always was,
the closet. It warped our minds and turned us against each other.

Could we have broken out of the closet any sooner?

Sure, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we always had the power; all we had to do is
click our heels – or, in our case, come out – and we would have been
transported wherever we wanted to go.

But also like Dorothy, if someone had tried to tell us
this at the start of our journey, we wouldn’t have believed it. And for the ruby slippers to work,
you have to believe.

As a community and as individuals, we had to learn
that not all straight people are bigoted and ignorant. We had to learn that
Grandma wouldn’t really have a heart attack when she finally learned we were
gay. And we had to learn to trust that other GLBT folks would have our backs.

Now that we’re almost at the doors of the Emerald City, it’s tempting to think we could
have gotten here sooner, to blame others for doing things we thought were shortsighted
or counter-productive.

And truthfully, I could have missed a few events along the way: the horrible "scarecrow" that was Matthew Shephard, for example, and the “poppy field” of AIDS.

But in a way, to get where we are now, we had to go through what we did then. We paid a terrible price to get where we are, but we’re almost home. The heart’s desire is a beautiful thing, and I for one am not wasting a minute blaming my traveling companions because we didn’t here any sooner.

Have a question about gay male entertainment? Ask the Monkey! (Please include your city and state and/or country.)